July 2001 Computer Video news

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In Software Downloads:
Adobe Premiere 6 (trial)
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How to get started with computer video editing

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Pinnacle's Studio refit

Pinnacle is revamping its Studio entry-level video editing software and making it available on its own for £80 (inc VAT) rather than only bundled with editing hardware. Upgrades to the new version will be £50.
Studio has long been one of our favourite beginners' video editing programs, and is one of the few programs at any price point that's genuinely easy and intuitive to use. But developments in other camps - particularly Ulead's with VideoStudio 5 and Apple's with iMovie 2 - have left Pinnacle's offering looking a little under-specified.
Studio 7, though, represents a major overhaul, and the software, we're told, has been rewritten from scratch, allowing it to work with a range of editing hardware including standard OHCI FireWire cards and ports; USB video cameras and web cams; and Pinnacle's own Studio DC10plus, Studio Online, StudioAction, Studio PCTV-USB and PCTV family, as well as other Connexant 848/878-based PCI TV tuner cards.
All of the best functionality has been retained, including real-time software previews of transitions, rubber-banding of audio-tracks on the timeline and real-time audio adjustment using sliders. Audio splitting (cutting video and audio at different times for smoother results) is now supported, and audio can be completely separated from video if necessary. As before, the program can capture video as highly-compressed AVI files for editing on small hard drives, after which the program will recapture only what it needs to assemble the final project for output to tape.
Other additions to Studio's toolkit include support for insert editing as well as assemble editing, allowing for far more complex cutting - introducing reaction shots and illustrative cutaways to projects. Captured clips can also be annotated with comments, and a search feature allows users to find clips based on comments assigned.
Colour correction tools have been added, allowing control over hue, saturation, brightness and contrast. There are also video filters including blur, emboss, mosaic, posterise, black-and-white and sepia. Playback speed of video can also be altered, with slow motion down to 1/10 normal speed or fast motion up to 10x normal.
Studio 7 is bundled with an improved version of TitleDeko, which now supports scrolling and crawling text; plus 16 Hollywood FX 3-D transitions; and AlphaMagic gradient wipes (in place of the PixŽlan wipes included in previous versions). Export options include MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 (with presets for VCD and SVCD), Windows Media and RealVideo 8, but no streaming QuickTime export. Registered users will be given free streaming video hosting at www.studioonline.com, allowing them to share up to 10MByte of short movies with the world. Look out for a full review soon.
Pinnacle, 01895 424228; www.pinnaclesys.com

Canopus comes out fighting

Having shown with the DV Storm and Rex RT how real-time DV editing should work - albeit at a price - Canopus is making an aggressive bid for the real-time lower end.
DVRaptor RT (£570 inc VAT) is a DV/analogue capture card competing head on with the Pinnacle DV500 plus (£559) and Matrox RT2500 (£775). Like them, it provides real-time previewing of many transitions, titles and effects via analogue video outputs but requires rendering of effects for output via FireWire.
Unlike RT2500 and DV500, Raptor RT doesn't use C-Cube DV chips - the company says it is unhappy with their performance - but instead uses Canopus's own software DV Codec. This explains another difference - that RaptorRT has no analogue input.
The card will come with Adobe Premiere 6 but not Canopus's own Edit software. This, we are told, is because the program would have to be extensively rewritten to work with the new card. Raptor RT is promised to give all the same real-time functionality as Storm, but only via analogue outputs.
Canopus has an excellent reputation for producing software to enhance its DV editing cards, but now the company is targeting its software at users of other cards, too. DV Booster Pack (£212) and Xplode Professional (£351) provide tools for DV editors that have so far been restricted to Canopus's own cards.
DV Booster Pack, a suite of plug-ins for Adobe Premiere, includes the Canopus MPEG encoder (for making VCD and DVD-compliant video files), Web Video Wizard (which compresses video into Windows Media format for the web) and Video Doctor effects filters that are featured in the company's DV Tools collection. Filters include chroma keying, picture-in picture, and a selection of Photoshop-style image filters including Pencil Sketch and Emboss.
Also included is a selection of wild and wacky transitions from the SoftXplode range. Canopus Xplode filters take a variety of forms, have all the class and subtlety of the Kenny Everett Video Show, and offer a high level of customisation.
Xplode Professional brings together the full suite of Canopus's Xplode 3D transitions and makes them available for all DV editors, regardless of capture hardware or DV Codec. The package - a plug-in for Adobe Premiere, Ulead MediaStudio Pro and Canopus Edit software - provides over 600 effects in 50 groups, and, Canopus claims, will render in almost real-time on systems sporting an NVIDIA-based graphics board with a TNT chipset or better. Effects are keyframable, and can have many attributes customised, such as shadows, lighting and soft borders. There's also a draft rendering mode, allowing users to preview results quickly at low-res.
Both packages come with Canopus's own DV Codec, although its installation is not mandatory, and are claimed to work well with any DV Codec. Canopus's own Codec is there for use on laptop or network computers in which no DV editing hardware is installed.
Canopus has also announced a LAN-based video networking system, MediaEdge, using MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 compression to deliver video over networks, and intended as an alternative to VCR and VCD-based kiosks and information stations. Media Edge includes Canopus's Amber MPEG encoder card, and dedicated HTML-based server software. Users can install the card on an existing computer, or buy a dedicated set-top box. Set-top boxes are £700, while the server software will be £1,700. MediaEdge allows live and pre-made video to be delivered over the network, and Canopus claims that the ease with which content can be managed and updated will make it more appealing than other systems that rely on recorded tape or disc.
Canopus, www.justedit.com

Another convert

Miglia Director's Cut (£350 inc VAT) is another addition to the growing range of analogue/DV converter boxes. It sports one set of S-video, composite and L/R audio inputs; plus one six-pin FireWire port; and two sets of outputs for S-video, composite video, and L/R audio (one for a VCR, the other for a TV set or video monitor).
No drivers are necessary for use with Windows or Mac PCs, and power can come from an external supply, or the host system via FireWire. It can work with PAL and NTSC video, and has the added bonus of stripping Macrovision signals from video, allowing it to be brought in from DVD sources. Look out for an early review.
Miglia, www.miglia.com

Smart media's a-burnin'

Berkshire-based specialist external drive company SmartDisk is launching a Windows CD burning program dedicated to video, music and stills and costing £50 (inc VAT).
MVP (which stands for Music, Video and Pictures) doesn't sport all the advanced features of competitors such as CeQuadrat's WinOnCD 3.8 but its drag-and-drop interface is said to be extremely easy to use and aimed at computer novices rather than multimedia enthusiasts.
Options include audio and MP3 CD creation; menu-driven VCDs; and linear SVCDs discs without menus.
VCD authoring comes close to WinOnCD in features, allowing video and still image slideshows to be combined in one project. Unfortunately, menu screens are created in a wizard and can't be customised. There appears to be no support for CDDA audio in VCD projects, and all slideshows are created at VCD resolution (352 x 538 pixels) rather than full PAL resolution of 704 x 576 which is supported by the VCD 2.0 standard. MVP also allows burning to DVD-RAM, although there's no mention yet of support for new-generation low-cost DVD-R burners such as Pioneer's AO3.
MVP has an integrated MPEG encoder that will convert video into VCD-compliant files or allow users to create MPEG-2 video with a ÒDVD-encodingÓ setting. As the program only allows the creation of SVCD discs and not CD DVD, we'll have to wait and see if these MPEG-2 files can be used in a standard SVCD project.
Supported video formats include MPEG with MPG or DAT extensions; QuickTime; and AVI. There's also support for JPEG stills, and CD audio. MVP supports Windows 95 through to 2000 and can, it's said, be used even on a 486 processor, though a Pentium-class processor is recommended for image processing and video encoding. Other minimum requirements include 32MBytes RAM and up-to-date MCI drivers for MPEG and QuickTime playback.
SmartDisk, 0118 977 9700; www.smartdisk.co.uk

Iomega Peerless drive

Iomega, maker of Zip and Jaz drives, is introducing a novel modular, three-piece, hot-swappable external hard drive system called Peerless. This uses USB or FireWire interfaces onto which sit docking stations that hold slot-in hard disk drive modules (10GByte or 20GByte) based on IBM's Travelstar 2.25in drives for laptops.
An interface with a docking station will cost £269 (inc VAT), and drives will be £159 and £199. A FireWire starter kit with a 20GByte disk will be £399. SCSI and USB 2.0 interfaces are promised soon.
Iomega claims that the drives will provide data transfer rates of up to 15MBytes per second over FireWire, making them more than adequate for DV editing. The company also says that the Travelstar drives are among the most rugged available, and should withstand a lot of handling.
Iomega, 0800 973194; www.iomega.com/europe/productoverviews/peerless/index.html

DataVideo DAC-2

No sooner had we published our review of DataVideo's DAC-1 Pro analogue/DV converter box, than the company came forth with a replacement.
The DAC-2 (£600 inc VAT) is much the same as its predecessor, but adds component video input to its component video output. The DAC-2 allows real-time conversion of video and audio from DV to analogue and vice versa. It sports component, S-video and composite video inputs and outputs; a four-pin FireWire terminal; and left/right analogue audio in/out.
While the DAC-1 received an excellent 90% in our review last month, the device fell down on its high price of £479. At £600, the DAC-2 is in danger of pricing itself out of reach - though it could be a must-buy for those needing the component video options. Look out for a full review soon.
Datavideo, www.datavideo.de

NAB2001 exhibition

Avid's stand was a magnet to videographers eager to see the company's new entry-level editing program, Xpress DV 2.0, supplied in two packages, Standard (US$1,699) and Power Bundle (US$2,999). Xpress DV 2.0 promises to bring the industry-standard Avid editing environment to a much wider number of users thanks to its (in Avid terms at least), unheard of affordability. A software-only product running on Windows 2000, Xpress DV 2.0 reflects the extensive experience that Avid has gained in NLE and offers a wealth of editing functions. What the system lacks in real-time capability, it adds in sheer functionality. Its appeal is further broadened by its ability to use the Avid standard AVX format and Digidesign ProTools plug-ins, and by project-compatibility with expensive Avid systems.
Bolstering its all-round abilities, the Standard version of Xpress DV 2.0 is bundled with Terran Media Cleaner, Boris FX and Boris Graffiti, while the Power Bundle adds Pinnacle Commotion, Knoll Light Factory, Stabilize Effect plug-in and the DV Filmmaker's Toolkit for editing film-based projects. The Power Bundle also includes Avid's own ePublisher software for synchronising web pages with video, plus Sonic's DVDit.
NewTek was showing Video Toaster 2, a Windows-based combined hardware and software package offering a live vision mixer, a non-linear editor, 3D graphics and a compositor in one elegant package. Its ability to handle both compressed and uncompressed sources means that it is equally at home in broadcast facilities as it is in DV suites. Price is $4,995, and includes versions of NewTek's Lightwave 3D and Aura 2 compositing programs. Although the initial release will be NTSC only, a dual-standard PAL/NTSC version is expected in September.
Building on the success of the RT2000, Matrox announced the RT2500. This offers the same features as its predecessor but in a single-card system designed to work with a host PC's existing graphics card. Matrox also announced the creation of Matrox.TV, a free video-streaming server for registered owners. Each user is allocated 20MByte of space to store videos.
While Matrox.TV may provide users with their first steps in broadcasting on the internet, many firms at NAB were seeking to ensure that it won't be their last. With the current state of play regarding the introduction of broadband services in the UK, many of us will want to sit on the sidelines for some time yet and this may not be a bad thing - early adopters face a bewildering choice of encoding and hosting products ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
One company that is certainly embracing the new opportunities is Media100 with its EventStream technology. This enables HTML elements to be incorporated into video material directly from the timeline of its flagship Media100 and more modestly priced CineStream editing products.
The technology - also used in the company's Cleaner 5 for synchronizing web page activities with completed material - is one of the featured elements of icanstream.tv, Media 100's web channel dedicated to interactive media streaming. This is a joint venture with Canon and is intended to help create an on-line community for users interested in streaming media. It provides tutorials and forums about techniques for web-broadcast media preparation, and acts as a host for members to display examples of their work.
Apple was showing V2 of Final Cut Pro for applications ranging from web video to HDTV, with support from compatible cards including Matrox's RTMac; Pinnacle's CineWave and Targa 3000; and Digital Voodoo. All benefited from FCP's (and QuickTime 5's) real-time support.
Apple and many others were using Post-Op Video's EZ Keyboard products and Contour Design's ShuttlePro controllers. The EZ Keyboard range covers Mac and Windows versions, and has colour-coded, engraved keycaps for easier control of packages such as Premiere, Avid XpressDV, Final Cut Pro and Media100. Prices start at $120.
Users looking to pay less can retain their existing keyboards and use a Post-Op range of keyboard stickers, which cost $35 per program. The ShuttlePro controller is a $130 USB device that provides 13 application-specific keys and a jog/shuttle controller for use with a range of video editing packages and graphics applications. Although currently available only for Mac, Windows drivers are due soon.
Canopus was showing its new Xplode Professional and DV Booster Pack software. As well as celebrating the announcement of an agreement to supply 600 editing systems to the BBC, Aist was also demonstrating Movie Pack 4.0, a major upgrade of V3 reviewed in Computer Video. This should be available in the summer and offers batch-capture, more effects and improved editing capabilities.
Also unveiled was Movie 3D, Aist's modelling and animation package. This provides particle effects and is expected to be released this month at $199.
Play, maker of Holoset and the recently reviewed PocketProducer has ceased trading, but its technology assets have been bought by GlobalStreams. The products should still be available, although rebranded. Holoset becomes GlobalStreams' Virtual Set. Play's flagship Trinity system will be further developed under the Globecaster name in a range of configurations.
On the camera front, apart from the breathtaking images that new High Definition systems are capable of producing, there wasn't much to report. JVC unveiled the JY-VS200U, a single chip 16:9/4:3 MiniDV camcorder targeted at independent filmmakers and streaming media producers. This appears to be of a family with the GR-DV2000EK consumer model.
JVC was also showing a prototype based around the DV-500E but using hard disk cartridges for recording. Drives can be plugged into an NLE system and editing started immediately. Avid and Ikegami were touting something like it a few years ago - but it's one whose time may now have come, now that hard disks have much greater capacity and are so much cheaper.
One technology that definitely will move into the mainstream is DVD production, thanks mainly to Pioneer's sub-$1,000 DVD writer, the A-03, and Panasonic's even cheaper LF-D311 DVD-R/RAM drive, which looks set to sell for £450! But what's also needed is competition in low-end DVD authoring programs. DVD authoring specialist Spruce Technologies announced SpruceUp, a $149 contender to Sonic Solutions' DVDit. Although cheap, SpruceUp isn't lacking in features - it can even enhance DVD interactivity with buttons and chapter points linked to web resources. The company also announced that all of its products will support the Pioneer and Panasonic DVD drives.


Premiere 6.01 beta

Adobe has available for download a beta updater of Premiere 6. The 6.01 beta (645KByte) is claimed to improve the ability to play DV from the timeline without dropping frames, though reports suggest it has not completely cured the problem.
What's not certain, though, is whether the updater doesn't work well, or whether users haven't followed Adobe's all-to-brief (and confusing) instructions. These say, "If you have previously installed any updates to Premiere 6.0, you may encounter an error when installing the 6.01 updater. To ensure correct installation of this updater you should reinstall Premiere 6.0 from the CD in your product box." Whether this should take place before or after installing the 6.01 beta, though, users aren't told.
The updater is also said to solve a PAL timeline playback problem that resulted in pixel aspect ratios being incorrectly set. And, it's reckoned to sort out a problem that prevented Pinnacle DC-30 users from playing from the timeline. In addition, Sony DVGate's troubles in reading Premiere files are reckoned to have been fixed.
Adobe, http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/prwin.htm

Recent features...
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Reviewed in July's issue:
Apple Final Cut Pro 2
Matrox RTMac

Pinnacle's DV500plus

In July's news:
Canopus comes out fighting
Pinnacle's Studio refit
Smart media's a-burnin'
Iomega Peerless drive
Another convert
DataVideo DAC-2
NAB2001 exhibition
Premiere 6.01 beta

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